August 18, 2011
Walking the line between the screen and studio. Photo © Dustin Cohen
It's a big week for The Dude. Not only is The Big Lebowski (1998) finally out on Blu-Ray, but also the movie's fearless front man, Jeff Bridges, is out of the recording studio: Blue Note Records just released the actor's 11-track, self-titled album. On the boot heels of his Oscar-winning performance as country singer Bad Blake in 2009's Crazy Heart, Bridges, 61, took a year off acting to collaborate with producer T Bone Burnett on the record. Burnett wrote the original music for the film with the late Stephen Bruton, on whom Bridges's hard-living character was based. As a tribute, two of the songs on Bridges' new album are ones Bruton originally intended for Crazy Heart. As for the other tracks, the actor says he's been fiddling with them for years. Although it's a departure from Be Here Soon, the indie-blues album Bridges released in 2000, the new record isn't strictly country. With its easy swagger and offhand depth, more than anything, it's definitively Bridges. The cult hero turned national treasure is ever the ambassador of cool. The Jeff Bridges album, $10; jeffbridges.com. The Big Lebowski: Limited Edition, $17; amazon.com.
On that note: Touring the Southern Blues Trail
February 02, 2012
Courtesy Craig T. Mathew / Mathew Imaging, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
When a famous composer’s centennial rolls around, it’s safe to expect a year full of festivals and seasonal programming featuring his great works. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is paying an ambitiously comprehensive tribute for the 100th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s death, collaborating with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra to perform all nine of Mahler’s formidable symphonies in just three weeks. Conducted by the Philharmonic’s Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, who burst onto the international conducting scene by winning the inaugural Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition in 2004, the Mahler festival is winding to a close, with only Symphonies No. 8 and 9 remaining. The Ninth is the most beloved of Mahler’s symphonies, but the February 4 performance of Mahler’s Eighth (the Symphony of a Thousand) will be something to see: Both orchestras will combine with a chorus of 800-plus soloists, making for over a thousand performers in the historic Shrine Auditorium.
Once they finish in Los Angeles, the orchestras depart for Caracas, Venezuela, where they’ll do it all over again—but in only seven days. We wish them luck! laphil.com.
February 16, 2012
After recent turns in Faust and La Bohème, soprano superstar Melody Moore is returning to the New York City Opera to headline the U.S. premiere of indie legend Rufus Wainwright’s first opera, Prima Donna. The French libretto follows aging soprano Régine Saint Laurent (portrayed by Moore) in her attempts to regain fame in 1970s Paris. Wainwright himself found fame in the late ‘90s as a pianist/singer-songwriter/Renaissance Man; since then, he’s released eight albums and two DVDs, won two Juno awards for Best Alternative Album (one for Rufus Wainwright in 1999 and another for Poses in 2002), garnered multiple acting credits and—of coursepenned the critically-lauded Prima Donna. His musical pedigree (he’s the son of folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle) and flair for orchestral pop make for an easy transition to the live stage. Englishman Tim Albery, a longtime advocate for innovative new opera, is directing the production, which opens February 19 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. Together, Wainwright, Albery and Moore weave betrayal, nostalgia and loss into an emotional tapestry celebrated as “a love song to opera.” Tickets $25; February 19, 21, 23 and 25; nycopera.org
March 08, 2012
Courtesy Savannah Music Festival
One of the biggest cross-genre music fetes in the country, the Savannah Music Festival kicks off its tenth anniversary on March 22. The celebration starts with a bang; on opening night at the city’s Trustees Theater, Wynton Marsalis leads the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra through a revue of new and traditional big-band swing. The lineup over the next 16 days takes place at venues throughout the city and runs the gamut from gospel to salsa, string quartets to zydeco. Among the highlights are an acoustic double bill with venerable troubadours Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt (pictured above, March 24); country-rock indie darlings Futurebirds (March 29); and several performances by renowned classical violinist Daniel Hope.savannahmusicfestival.org.
January 09, 2013
In Baja California, just 45 miles north of Cabo San Lucas’s raucous glitz, sits Todos Santos, a sleepy surfing and art haven slowly gaining the attention of boldface names seeking authentic Mexican culture. Among those who have fallen in love with the town is R.E.M guitarist Peter Buck, who liked the old colonial hamlet so much, he bought a house there and founded the Todos Santos Music Festival in 2012 with his fiancée, Chloe Johnson.
The festival, which draws both locals and expats alike and takes place at the historic Hotel California, will be held during three weekends in January and features artists like the Posies, Alejandro Escovedo, Chuck Prophet and Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3, as well as two bands from Mexico City, Twin Tones and Torreblanca. “It is an amazing opportunity to introduce tourists to some very cool Mexican music, but also a great opportunity for people from Baja to see indie music from the mainland of Mexico,” Johnson says. “It is fairly rare for those kinds of bands to tour in Baja.”
Best of all, a trip to this musical paradise is for a good cause. All proceeds are donated to the Palapa Society, a nonprofit organization that provides after-school programs and scholarships to local children. Last year the festival raised $50,000—enough money for the program to double its enrollment. January 10–12, 17–20 and 24–26; todossantosmusicfestival.com.
Where to stay: Rancho Pescadero, a nearby boutique hotel and festival sponsor, is hosting a private acoustic show and dinner with Ken Stringfellow of the Posies on January 16, as well as offering hotel guests VIP access to the festival at large. Rooms start at $185; Camino a la Playa, Pescadero; 910-300-8891; ranchopescadero.com.
February 05, 2013
Photo © 2013 ManhattanSociety.com by Gregory Partanio
Lola Astanova began playing the piano at the age of six. Her mother, a piano teacher, hesitated at first, but her father insisted. The 28-year-old, who was born in Uzbekistan and moved to Houston, Texas, when she was 17, is now considered one of the most exciting pianists in music.
Astanova, who normally practices three hours a day, is as comfortable playing a pop hit as she is a classical masterpiece. (Watch the YouTube clip of her tackling a version of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music.”) She appeared with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in January at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall to play Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Wearing a gray dress by Catherine Malandrino and dangerously lofty high heels that somehow failed to slow her feet on the pedals, she riveted the crowd with her signature full-body style and sprinting fingers.
Her upcoming schedule is punctuated by private performances, arts support (she wants to inspire children to be musical) and work on her HD digital series La Musique et L’Ardeur. She will perform George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Palm Beach Symphony on March 28 in Palm Beach. A summer European tour is on the books followed by Australia in the fall. We caught up with Astanova to talk music, fashion and future plans.
Q: Some would describe your artistic style as unconventional.
A: I never really thought about it, but since people try to describe it as that I actually take it as a compliment. This is simply the way I happen to feel this music—I think it’s very dramatic, very passionate and sometimes can be very physical. I don’t think about being theatrical. I would have to actually think about not playing the way I do!
Q: Which of your performances have been particularly memorable?
A: Carnegie Hall [where she played last year for the first time] was a very special night for me. The energy was just amazing. I played a tribute to [Vladimir] Horowitz.
Q: Do you remember what you wore?
A: I do remember. I was wearing two gowns. One was by Roberto Cavalli and the other was by Marc Bouwer. I do love fashion. I experiment with it. I think that fashion goes really well with music; Rachmaninoff goes perfectly with Chanel.
Q: You stayed out of competitions throughout your career. Why?
A: I happen to think that there is more than one way of playing. For me it’s more important to be able to express yourself freely and play the way you feel and not be judged by an artificial set of rules that is irrelevant today. It’s not about academia. It’s not about playing the right notes or following the score exactly. You have to obviously know what’s in the score and the rules, but, if you need to, you also need to be able to break the rules.
Q: What do you strive for when you play?
A: I want to make sure that every concert becomes special for the audience and that I put the ultimate effort into it. I don’t want everything to become mechanical. I don’t want to just do it as a job.